Are you strapping on your boots, turning up to training on Tuesday and Thursday each week, playing your game and wondering why you keep getting injured throughout the footy season, or why you aren’t getting any better?
Are you completing any additional work outside of what is just done on the footy oval?
There is only so much that you can do on the oval to improve and keep you injury free – it is important to include strength work to compliment all of your footy training.
Getting along to the gym a couple of times per week is a great start and a really positive step in the right direction.
But, if your gym session is just punching out some bench presses and bicep curls then you are missing out on a massive opportunity to improve.
Luckily for you, we’ve put together the perfect solution.
It’s called the AFL Strength & Conditioning Program – Full Season 20 week block.
This program has been designed to build you in to a robust athlete, that is more resilient to injury, keeping you out playing footy.
Strength and conditioning for AFL plays a crucial role in an athlete’s performance!
This AFL training program has been put together by Chris Radford who has multiple years experience working within the AFL / VFL and NAB league competitions. Western Bulldogs – North Ballarat Roosters – GWV Rebels.
This program has everything included in it: Strength – Power – Injury prevention – Recovery. Everything all included to ensure you are at your best – with the program delivered through our online platform making it super easy to access everything on your phone.
All of the strength and conditioning exercises come with video demonstrations by one of our coaches.
If you want to make sure you’re playing footy, and not putting yourself at a greater risk of sitting on the sideline, then you DO need this.
Click the links below and bulletproof yourself from injury and increase your performance.
Because the countdown is on back to games, and the chances are your training has slipped off.
Maybe not entirely, but there is NO WAY your body is in the same condition after stopping training and games for a whole season because of ‘Rona.
But with the 2021 season looking good – it’s time you got ready!
So… where do you start and how do you get ready?
Luckily for you, we’ve put together the perfect solution.
It’s called the AFL Preseason Training Program.
This program has been designed to build you in to a robust athlete, that is more resilient to injury, keeping you out playing footy. Which then forms the base for us to capitalise on and improve your performance.
Strength and conditioning for AFL plays a crucial role in an athlete’s performance – the major aim for this 4 week block is to build a base foundation of running and strength work – that can be capitalised on when team trainings resume and when phase two of the program roles out.
This AFL preseason training program has been put together by Chris Radford who has multiple years experience working within the AFL / VFL and NAB league competitions.
Western Bulldogs – North Ballarat Roosters – GWV Rebels
This 4 week program has everything included in it:
Full gym program – strength, power and injury prevention
Everything all included to ensure you are at your best – with the program delivered through our online platform making it super easy to access everything on your phone.
All of the strength and conditioning exercises come with video demonstrations by one of our coaches.
If you want to make sure you’re playing footy, and not putting yourself at a greater risk of sitting on the sideline, then you DO need this.
Click the link below and bulletproof yourself from injury and increase your performance in time for when footy season starts.
Increasing muscle mass is often the goal of resistance training programs for the general population. However, when designing training programs to increase muscle mass for athlete populations it is important to consider the potential advantages and disadvantages this may have on performance.
Advantages of increasing mass:
Generally, a larger muscle is a stronger muscle. This is especially true if the increase in muscle mass is the result of an increase in the amount of contractile elements of the muscle fibre ultimately increasing the force generating capacity if the muscle. Therefore, there is greater capacity for strength and power.
The inertia of a body is proportional to its mass. Think of a basketball player under the ring attempting to hold their position for a rebound. A player with more mass will be harder to move compared to a player with less mass.
An increase in mass may allow an athlete to move with greater momentum which is valuable for collision-based sports. Momentum = mass x velocity there for an athlete with more mass running at a given velocity will have greater momentum and more chance to inflict damage upon their opponent.
Disadvantages of increasing mass:
Acceleration is an important speed quality for many sports. Acceleration = force / mass. Therefore, if as a result of training we have in increase in mass without a subsequent increase in the ability to generate force acceleration will be compromised. The same thought process can be applied to an athlete’s ability to decelerate, change directions and jump. Therefore, if we increase mass without consideration of force production important components of performance can be negatively impacted.
Increases in body mass leads to greater impact forces when running and jumping. The cumulative stress associated with the greater impact forces from these activities means that more recovery from training and competition will be needed. If additional time needs to be budgeted for recovery, then that time needs to be taken from other aspects of training such skill work or the development of physical qualities.
Endurance performance is important for most sports. An athlete’s Aerobic power or VO2 max is expressed in millilitres (mL) of oxygen per kilogram (kg) of body weight per minute –
(mL·kg-1·min-1 ). If an athlete consumes 4,000 mL·min-1 with a 70kg body mass the VO2 max = 57.1ml·kg-1· min-1 . If body mass is increased to 73 kg with no improvement in O2 uptake VO2 max would decrease by 4% to 54.8 mL·kg-1·min-1.
When prescribing training to athletes do not just assume that an increase in mass will be of benefit for the athlete. Carefully consider how the change will impact their performance.
If attempting to get a hypertrophy response, training with heavy loads (approximately 90% of maximum) that presents a neural stimulus for strength adaptation is recommended.
Note: The above information is a snapshot of a manuscript published in the Strength and Conditioning Journal that I co-authored with colleagues and students.
Young W, Talpey S, Bartlett R, Lewis M, Mundy S, Smyth A, Welsh T. (2019). Development of Muscle Mass: How much is optimum for performance? Strength and Conditioning Journal. 41(3) 47-50
Full text: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/329333781_Development_of_Muscle_Mass_How_Much_Is_Optimum_for_Performance
Author: Scott Talpey, PhD. CSCS, ASCA LII. Senior Lecturer & Program Coordinator Master of Strength and Conditioning Federation University Australia.
Netball is a sport played at high intensities with many accelerations, decelerations, changes of direction, jumping and landings performed by players throughout the game. No matter what position you play on the court you need to be able to jump, catch the ball and often land on one leg before passing it off again – but do you have a solid strength base to be able to perform this over and over again in a game?
If we look at the most common injuries in Netball, it is evident that a very high percentage occur to the knee and ankle as a result of a poor landing – whether that be because of contact or not. Completing a structured strength training program can help to reduce the risk of the injuries from occurring. In addition to the normal skills training, physical preparation for netball should contain elements of: • Balance and proprioception • Total body strength but most notably the lower body and core • Agility • Power • Endurance
To help decrease your risk of injury but also improve your performance on the court we have come up with a list of our top 5 exercises for netball. We have also made it so the exercises can all be performed at the court with minimal equipment.
Check out our NETBALL TRAINING PROGRAM full of: Warm up protocol / speed / change of direction / passing drills / running sessions / strength work.
Top 5 exercises for Netball:
1. Single leg Landing • Start with two feet together, stand up tall on your tip toes, arms reaching for the sky. • Quick drop and stick on one leg • Nail the landing, “attack the ground” • Keep the knee in line with the foot – don’t let the knee drop inwards • 3 sets of 6 landings each leg Progression: • Step off a box or step then stick the landing on one leg
2. Single leg squat • Best performed balancing off the edge of step or ledge, looking for ¼ squat depth. • Keep knee tracking in line with your foot, do not let your knee drop inwards • Control movement down until opposite leg touches the ground • 3 sets of 15 reps each leg
3. Single leg RDL/Arabesque • Starting one on leg • Extend one leg backwards, and both arms forward or out to the side to help balance • Bending from the hips, keeping your back straight and hips level • At the top position we want a straight line from head to heel. • Then control the return back to the start position – try and stay balanced for all 6 reps • 3 sets of 6 reps each leg
4. Glute Bridge • Lying on your back, feet shoulder width apart, heels close to your finger tips • Drive through your heels, lifting your hips towards the sky • At the top position, after a straight line from knees to shoulders – squeeze your bottom at the top position and hold for 2 seconds • 3 sets of 15 reps
5. Side plank • Lying on your side with legs out straight, forearm/elbow placed directly under your shoulder • Lift your body up off the ground, pressing through the forearm and feet • Maintain a straight line from head to heel, try and keep your hips high • 3 x 30 secs each side
By performing this batch of top 5 exercises for netball twice per week it will play a role in decreasing your risk on injury and increasing on court performance. Improving your ability to land and balance on leg, as well as increasing your strength in the contest. Completing a structured strength training program is essential to your development as a netballer, especially if you are looking to take your game to the next level.
Check out our NETBALL TRAINING PROGRAM full of: Warm up protocol / speed / change of direction / passing drills / running sessions / strength work.
The importance of single leg strength for runners:
It doesn’t matter if you are a runner competing over short distances around the track or a marathon out on the road – it is super important that you add in some form of strength training to help you stay injury free but also improve your running performance.
Historically runners have been hesitant to do strength training because of the perceived negative effects of it and the chance of increased hypertrophy, muscle bulk (Yamamoto et al, 2008). It has now been shown on many occasions to actually aid running performance from increased force production and power development, improved motor unit recruitment and enhanced stretch shortening cycle (Balsalobre-Ferna Ndez et al, 2015).
We are going to be exploring the role that strength training can play for runners, in particular single leg strength.
As you know, when we run every time we take a stride there is only one foot in contact with the ground at any time. This requires great strength from the foot all the way up the chain to your torso. When the body isn’t strong in this position, that is when injuries can occur and performance goes down as energy is ‘leaking’ from the body.
Weakness through hips – every time your foot strikes the ground your pelvis should remain relatively stable. But, when the hip complex isn’t strong enough that is when you will have a ‘hip drop’ and when not addressed can verge into a Trendelenburg gait.
Weakness through the knee – Once again on foot strike your knee should stay tracking in line with your toes and not collapse inwards. This lateral collapse of the knee ‘valgus’ can lead to knee pain as it is placing extra load on the joint and once again can also mean slower pace.
Weakness through the ankle and foot – Upon foot strike the foot complex should be strong and springy, absorbing the contact, transferring the force and then propelling you forwards. When it is weak there can be a collapse through the ankle and mid foot, placing extra load on the tibialis posterior and plantar fascia.
So, what can you do about reducing the risk of these injuries occurring?
Here are our top 5 strength exercises for runners that you can be completing at home to build up that single leg strength:
Single leg squat – 3 x 10 each leg – Aim to keep your knee tracking in line with your toes, slowly lower down move hips back first, just touch the box then return to the top.
Single leg glute bridge – 3 x 10 each leg – Start with feet shoulder width apart finger tips touching heels, one leg lifts up and floats in the sky, then press your heel into the floor and lift tummy to the sky, squeeze bum at the top, focus on keeping hips level at the top.
Single leg RDL – 3 x 6 each leg – Slight bend in the stance leg, aim to stay straight from head to heel with the other leg, bending at the hips, aim to get out as long as possible.
Side lay leg lift – 3 x 8 each leg – Starting in side plank position from the knees, keep straight line from head to heel with bottom leg, lift top leg up to the sky, should feel this exercise in the side of your bum.
Single leg calf raise – 3 x 15 each leg – Press through big toe, get nice and tall, keep the movement slow and controlled.
We recommend completing these exercises 1-2 times per week, ideally in conjunction with some core strengthening work as well. If you do have any injuries at the moment it would be best to get advice from an Allied Health Professional before giving these a go.
It is important to remember that strength training is there to assist your running – running is the main aim and the strength exercises are a tool to help keep you out on the track.
If you have got any questions in regards to this post or just general strength and conditioning please comment below or send us an email – firstname.lastname@example.org.
BALSALOBRE-FERNA ́ NDEZ, C., & SANTOS-CONCEJERO, J. (2015). EFFECTS OF STRENGTH TRAINING ON RUNNING ECONOMY IN HIGHLY TRAINED RUNNERS: A SYSTEMATIC REVIEW WITH META-ANALYSIS OF CONTROLLED TRIALS. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2361–2368.
Hoff, J, Gran, A, and Helgerud, J. Maximal strength training improves aerobic endurance performance. Scand J Med Sci Sports12: 288–295, 2002.
Jones, P and Bampouras, T. Resistance training for distance running: a brief update. Strength Cond J 29(1): 28–35, 2007
YAMAMOTO, L. M., LOPEZ, R. M., KLAU, J. F., & CASA, D. J. (2008). THE EFFECTS OF RESISTANCE TRAINING ON ENDURANCE DISTANCE RUNNING PERFORMANCE AMONG HIGHLY TRAINED RUNNERS: A SYSTEMATIC REVIEW. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2036–2044.
In Part 1 and Part 2of this series we identified the risk factors precursor to hamstring strain injury and the appropriate exercise selection to mitigate those risks. However, despite our best efforts to prevent hamstring strains, there is a possibility they will still occur due to non-modifiable risks such as age and previous injury. Therefore, in this final part of the series we will discuss how we rehabilitate a low grade hamstring strain, and the special considerations in returning to athletic performance.
Acute Stage (0-48hrs)
The age old first aid practice of ‘RICER’ (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation, and Refer) still applies in the acute management of hamstring strain injury. This aims to reduce the secondary damage imposed by the acute-inflammatory response to the injured site. If left alone, an increased amount of swelling and inflammation into the muscle tissue will pronounce damage and muscle soreness, and extend healing time as it will take longer to subside. Apply ice for 10-20 minutes every 2 hours for the first 12-24 hours post injury, and maintain compression throughout the 48 hour period to minimise the secondary damage. Avoid consumption of alcohol as this will exacerbate inflammation and bleeding of the injured site, and will consequently disrupt the rehabilitation. After this period, the athlete should see a Physiotherapist to assess the grade of the injury.
Sub-Acute Stage (3-7days)
Following the initial management, the athlete should be ready to commence some level of exercise rehabilitation. Conventional hamstring rehabilitation begins with an isometric exercise (hamstring bridge) in a shortened position (90deg knee bend). This exercise is progressed throughout the range of motion at the knee. The criteria to progress is an absence of pain during this exercise and walking. The reasoning behind this is because pain can induce inhibition of the muscle. This is a protective mechanism, to avoid strain of the affected area. However, an issue with this is that it limits the ability to progress in the early stage of rehab. Additionally, a lack of stimulus for the hamstrings will lead to a chronic inhibition of the muscle group, and increase the risk of recurring hamstring strain injury. Despite this, we still utilise the hamstring bridge to assess and compare clinical signs such as pain, strength and power with the unaffected leg to monitor the asymmetry of the injured leg.
A more accelerated approach advised by the Hamstring Injury Research Group commence with isotonic exercises and regress or progress according to how the individual responds. The following are the hamstring exercises that we use during this early stage:
Double Leg Hamstring Bridge 1-3 sets x 10-15 repetitions
45 Degree Double Leg Hip Extension 1-3 sets x 8-12 repetitions
Double Leg Eccentric Slide Leg Curl 1-3 sets x 4-8 repetitions
Straight-line run-throughs; 1-3 sets x 10 repetitions x 50m at a tolerable pace
As I have formerly mentioned in part 1 and part 2, peak eccentric strength and fascicle length are significant determinants of hamstring strain injury. Therefore the integration of eccentric-biased exercises are a cornerstone of successful hamstring rehabilitation for those physiological and structural adaptations to occur. Additionally, the introduction of straight-line running (no matter how slow) is also important in the loading of affected and unaffected soft-tissue. These exercises are then progressed once the athlete has tolerated them (4/10 or less pain), throughout a full range of motion.
Single Leg Hamstring Bridge 1-3 sets x 10-15 repetitions
45 Degree Single Leg Hip Extension 1-3 sets x 8-12 repetitions
Single Leg Eccentric Slide Leg Curl 1-3 sets x 4-8 repetitions >> if tolerated progress to Nordics 1-2 sets x 4 repetitions
Lumbo-Pelvic Mobility Exercises
Running Mechanic Drills at low velocity
Lateral steps, Side to Side, Grapevines at low velocity 5 x 10m
Straight-line run-throughs; 1-3 sets x 10 repetitions x 50-100m at a tolerable pace
Fartlek (walk-jog) curve-linear; progress total volume
These exercise progressions gradually increase the difficulty and demand of the hamstring group. If the single-leg eccentric slide is tolerated by the athlete, they are then progressed to the Nordic hamstring exercise (NHE). The NHE is most effective in developing peak eccentric strength and fascicle length. Additionally, the NHE will provide a strong stimulus to restore neural activity and excitability which is otherwise lost due to inhibition. The inclusion of lumbo-pelvic mobility and running mechanic drills are used to reinforce positive behaviours during running and protect the athlete from adopting biomechanics that may promote strain on the hamstrings. By the end of the week the athlete may be able to establish a tempo which they feel they can comfortably run in a straight line. This may be reported as a percentage of their maximal effort (e.g. 50%). From this we are able to prescribe intermittent type training to introduce some aerobic conditioning. The inclusion of simple change of direction and Fartlek style running in a curve-linear (S-curve) pattern allows other muscle groups (calves, adductors) to be loaded alternatively to straight-line running, increase overall training load, and has been shown to reduce hamstring strain injury recurrence. This also assists in the avoidance of overuse injuries such as tendinopathies and helps maintain a regular training-stress balance.
Reconditioning Phase (7-14days)
Once the athlete is beginning to clear these clinical signs, they must improve their hamstring’s capacity to withstand increased internal and external loads. As a practitioner and athlete, the mindset should be focussed on returning to performance in better condition than prior to their injury. This should strongly consider the physical demands of the athletes sport. Otherwise they will return deconditioned and perform poorly in a competitive environment. Strengthening exercises should continue to progress to increase the overall strength, speed and endurance capacity of the hamstrings. The following can be included in addition to the previous examples:
Rack-pull or Trap-bar Deadlift 2-3 sets x 6-8 repetitions at starting light weight
Lunge 2-3sets x 6 repetitions starting at bodyweight
Fast eccentric leg curl on fitball 2 sets x 6 repetitions
Double leg broad jump 2 sets x 4 repetitions
Introduce acceleration and decelerations – Run 5m + Decelerate 5m x 4 repetitions (progress Run in 5m increments e.g. 10m Run, 5m decelerate)
Progress Running Tempo and Volume using MAS and game parameters
Increase change of direction angle and intensity, Y-Cut + T-Cut 5 x 10m
Low to moderate level training skill and technical drills (e.g. modified kicking distance, no contested work)
Functional Phase (14-21days)
By this stage of the rehabilitation the muscle tissue healing should be complete and pain free. The athlete should be returning to full training, whilst still being mindful of maximal speed efforts in drills. Before a return to competition the athlete should be able to demonstrate equal strength and power qualities between the injured and uninjured leg, ideally within 10% asymmetry. Within a professional setting, practitioners use a NordBoard to assess peak and average eccentric strength, as well as compare left to right. A simpler method would be a single leg hamstring bridge endurance test – the athlete performs as many repetitions as possible on each leg to compare their strength-endurance capacity. Power qualities can also be observed during a single leg bounding test; the athlete can perform one single leg bound, and a triple bound before comparing distances from left to right. Depending on which is the injured leg, there may have already been a pre-existing discrepancy in this performance test due to dominant versus non-dominant leg. Despite this, it is still important information that can compare the functional capacity of the rehabilitated leg. Additionally, athletes will need to have expressed maximal velocity either in training or in a controlled running drill before they are cleared to return to play. Whilst professional sporting clubs have access to GPS technology, this can also be achieved by performing a timed run over a pre-determined distance and calculating the speed using meters per second, or a fitness watch (e.g. Garmin) has the capacity to capture maximal velocity. Furthermore, athletes must demonstrate the muscular and aerobic endurance required at competition level. For Australian Rules football, this requires the player to be able to cover 11-15km with 30% at a high intensity (>15km/h) and intermittent sprint efforts (>25km/h). This type of game parameters session is often completed 7 days before the athletes planned return to play to ensure they are capable of withstanding the rigours of the sport and return to normal training load. If the athlete is able to demonstrate maximal capacity near symmetrical attributes to the uninjured leg, without pain or tightness, then they are cleared to return to play. The following exercises are used during this phase to improve the functional capacity of the hamstrings:
RDL 2-3 sets x 6-8 repetitions
Split-squat 2-3 sets x 6 repetitions
Nordics 3 sets x 4 repetitions
Prone Glute-Ham Raise 2 sets x 8 repetitions
Sled Push resisted accelerations 4 x 10m
Sprinting/Flying Starts 4 x 20m accelerate – 20m hold – 20m decelerate
Once the athlete has returned to play it is important to remain diligent in the maintenance of their hamstrings to prevent recurring injuries. History of hamstring strain injury significantly increases the risk of re-injury, so an increased effort must be maintained to remain injury free. Exercises targeting all aspects of the hamstrings functional anatomy are important to ensure nothing is going overlooked. This includes the use of hip and knee-dominant exercises to get proximal to distal, medial to lateral loading of the muscles and tendons. Additionally, the athlete should have regular high speed exposures; performing one maximal speed effort on a weekly basis to maintain the capacity of the hamstrings to contract at high velocity and maintain training load.
Early exercise intervention has been shown to improve rehabilitation outcomes by reducing time-loss to training and return to play. Furthermore, the appropriate implementation of eccentric-biased exercises will maintain a neuromuscular stimulus and prevent chronic inhibition, which will reduce the chances of recurring injuries. Lastly, gradually progressing the athlete workload towards a return to play is important in ensuring they are fully prepared for competition and avoiding acute spikes in workload that will put them at risk.
Hamstring rehabilitation is modifiable depending on the type of athlete, their chosen sport and the mechanism of injury. If you have experienced a hamstring strain, seek an expert on how to best return to sporting performance.
Hamstring Injuries Part 2 – How to strengthen your hamstrings
Author: Leo Bell (Physical Performance Coach)
In part 1 of this series we discussed the risk factors that increase the likelihood of sustaining a hamstring strain injury. In a short review, we highlighted hamstrings that have short fascicle length, poor eccentric strength, and unaccustomed to high intensity efforts (such as sprinting) are more vulnerable to experiencing a strain injury.
Therefore, our aim as physical performance coaches is to create adaptations that make our athlete’s hamstrings longer, stronger and conditioned for performance. Fortunately, research has indicated that exercise interventions and training load modifications are an effective way to reduce these risks and prevent hamstring strain injuries.
Medial, Lateral, Proximal, or Distal?
What’s more to consider before prescribing hamstring exercises, is to understand the anatomical function of the hamstring group. The hamstring group is responsible for hip extension and knee flexion moments, with the exception of the bicep femoris short head, which only crosses the knee joint. This makes the hamstrings predominantly important during locomotive actions such as propelling us forward during walking, running and sprinting. And also important in the deceleration of the lower leg during the terminal swing phase of running.
The hamstring group can be divided into medial and lateral hamstrings, namely the semimembranosus and semitendinosus (medial), and the biceps femoris long head and short head (lateral). The medial hamstrings originate at the ischial tuberosity and insert just below the knee joint at the medial aspect of the tibia. The bicep femoris long head also originates at the ischial tuberosity, but it inserts laterally on the head of the fibula. The short head originates on the linea aspera and lateral supracondylar line of the femur, and inserts at the lateral aspect on the head of the fibula. Due to its line of force, the medial hamstrings can be biased by slightly internally rotating the leg and foot during knee flexion, and vice versa for the lateral hamstrings. Understanding these origins and insertions allows us to bias muscles during exercises for a targeted approach.
Moreover, research using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and surface electromyography (sEMG) has allowed an insight to the metabolic and electrical activity of each muscle during different posterior chain exercises. Knee-dominant hamstring exercises such as the Nordic or hamstring curl tend to favour the Biceps femoris short-head and semitendinosus muscles. Whilst hip-dominant exercises such as 45-degree extension and Romanian-deadlift tend to target semimembranosus and bicep femoris long-head muscles. This knowledge is key in providing a general injury prevention program to ensure you are hitting all the key muscles and not leaving any underdeveloped. Moreover, it is important to know when treating a problem area for an individual, and ensuring that the right muscle is receiving the appropriate stimulus.
Eccentric Versus Isometric
There has been plenty of debate regarding whether an eccentric or isometric action occurs during high speed running. Which has flowed on to debate whether eccentric or isometric focussed exercises are more specific and effective. Without delving in and opening a can of worms, it is my opinion that both types of muscle contractions are important to train and thus should be included. There is strong evidence to suggest that improving peak eccentric force of the hamstrings during a Nordic exercise will reduce the risk of a strain injury. During a Nordic, a supramaximal eccentric contraction occurs in the hamstrings. The adaptations from this exercise cause the hamstring fascicles to lengthen, and increase the maximal eccentric strength. The only concern with this particular mode of contraction is that eccentrics promote exercise-induced muscle damage, which may result in an increased level of perceived muscle soreness. This can be difficult to implement during the middle of a competitive season as athletes want to remain ready and operational. However, repeated bouts of eccentric exercise over the course of 1-2 weeks reduces perceived soreness as we become more physiologically accustomed to the stimulus. Therefore it is important when including an eccentric focused exercise to maintain its use consistently throughout the competition period.
Alternatively, Van Hooren and Bosch (2017) have argued that there is no active muscle lengthening (eccentric) contraction during high speed running, and that an isometric contraction is apparent before the point of ground contact. Therefore in respect to this argument, including an isometric stimulus is also important from a behavioural context. This can be further discussed at a later date.
Bullet proof hamstrings
The following are 5 exercises that we use to develop robust hamstrings for athletic performance:
1 – Nordics
Ankles fixed, knees bent and hips extended
Hands at chest in a push up position
Maintain a neutral spine and avoid rib flaring or lower back arching.
Slowly extend at the knee, and allow the hamstrings to suspend you down to the floor
2 sets of 4 repetitions
Progression: weighted Nordic lowers (e.g. hold onto 2-5kg during lower)
2 – Romanian Deadlifts (RDL)
Maintain a neutral spine as hips ‘slide back and forth’
Allow hamstrings to suspend the trunk into a lowered position until parallel with the floor
Keep weight close and slide down front of thighs to reduce strain on lower back
‘Claw’ through the floor and stand up straight
3-4 sets of 5-8 repetitions
Progression: single-leg RDL
3 – Glute-Ham Raise
Can be used for isometric holds or eccentric focus
Maintain a neutral spine and avoid rib flaring or lower back arching
Dig in through heels and slowly lower trunk towards floor
3 sets of 4-8 repetitions
Progression: weighted lowers, isometric holds or catch
4 – Single Leg Hamstring Bridge
Useful exercise for improving posterior chain strength-endurance.
Concentric and isometric focussed
Tilt pelvis posteriorly (point belt-buckle up)
Push through heels
Hips up high as possible
3 sets of 8-20 repetitions, with 2 second hold
5 – Sprinting
Consistent exposures to high-speed running stimulus are important to maintain a velocity-based conditioning of the hamstrings. Previous research has suggested spikes in high-speed running loads precedes hamstring strain injury, as the hamstrings are not accustomed to the intensity of the exercise and result in fatigue and muscle damage. As the saying goes ‘there’s no fitness, like match fitness’. Therefore including a weekly high-speed stimulus to ensure your hamstrings are experiencing a maximal velocity contraction may have a prophylactic effect.
Ensure you are warmed up and prepared for a near-maximal effort
4 x flying starts
g. Accelerate 30m, hold top speed 10m, Decelerate 30m
The emphasis is on what happens during the middle segment, and less effort should occur during acceleration and deceleration, hence the longer segments during those phases
The hamstrings have an important role in running-based sports. Practitioners and athletes should be careful with exercise selection so they are not overloading or under-loading particular structures. This includes the volume, intensity and timing of the stimulus. Athletes should seek an individualised approach, particularly those with an injury history to ensure all factors are accounted for and they are working towards the best possible outcome.
Part 3 will be released soon where we will be looking at the rehabilitation of a strained hamstring
Hamstring strains are one of the most common sports injuries, with lots of time and money lost in the wake of a hamstring strain incident. The AFL have seen over 65 hamstring strain injuries (as of Round 11) so far in 2018, and you could only expect this tally to increase as the season progresses.
The pinch of hamstring strains has also been felt at local level sport, but recreational participants are at a greater disadvantage without the resources and treatment that a professional athlete may receive. Therefore, the reason for this blog is to discuss hamstring strain injury mechanisms, risks, and potential preventative strategies that we can employ to reduce their occurrence.
Whats the cause of a Hamstring strain?
A hamstring strain is caused as a result of a rapid eccentric (lengthening) contraction that exceeds the strain capacity of the muscle, resulting in damage to the muscle and/or neurovascular tissues (think of an elastic band stretching too far that it causes a tear in the band). This typically occurs during high speed running at the terminal swing phase, where the hamstrings are stretched over the hip and knee joints. Additionally, it is not unusual to see a hamstring strain occur during kicking or quick changes of direction. Whilst these movements are the mechanism of injury, they’re unavoidable. Additionally, risk factors predispose certain people to an increased chance of incurring a hamstring strain. So let us look at the risks…
There are two types of risk factors that we should concern ourselves with when discussing hamstring strain injuries – non-modifiable, and modifiable risk factors.
Non-modifiable risk factors – are those that are inherently beyond our control. The athletes age, race, muscle fibre type and injury history are examples of non-modifiable risks that increase the chances of experiencing a hamstring strain injury. Athletes aged older than 25 years are seemingly more at risk of injury. There are several theories as to why the age-related difference in hamstring injury risk exists, however none have been substantiated by clinical research. It is suggested that a loss of muscle flexibility and mobility of the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex is problematic for the length-tension relationship and ultimately exposes the hamstrings to greater strain. Moreover, research has indicated that athletes of African or Aboriginal descent also experience hamstring strains more often than Caucasians. The reason for this can be simply explained by their predominant muscle fibre type, as type 2 muscle fibres are more prone to strain than type 1 muscle fibres, due to their greater rate of force production and fatigue-ability. Whilst we know there is nothing we can do to change these risk factors, greater emphasis can be placed on negating the modifiable-risk factors and implementing preventative strategies.
Modifiable risk factors – are those that we can effectively change. Modifiable risk factors include muscle temperature, shortened optimal muscle length, reduced muscle strength and flexibility, and training-load factors such as speed exposures and fatigue. Due to early observations of hamstring strains occurring early in training and competition, it was declared that muscles were not in a prepared state for physical activity. Hence, the introduction of a well-structured warm-up was used to increase muscle temperature and improve the muscles pliability under stress. In addition to cold muscles, short muscle-fascicle length demonstrably increases the risk of future hamstring-strain injuries. If you can imagine, your muscle fascicles are made of up tiny cross-bridges that clasp onto each other and shorten during contraction. If these cross-bridges are clasped too tightly and the fascicle length is chronically shortened, there is a reduced capacity to stretch and therefore the yield point of the strain will be much sooner (resulting in a tear). Furthermore, shorter muscle-fascicles result in a sub-optimal length-tension relationship, effectively reducing the strength capabilities of the muscle and its capacity to withstand forces during running or kicking. Simply put, short and weak hamstrings significantly increase the risk of hamstring strain injury.
With the development of GPS technology and research monitoring the physical demands of training and competition, we now know that a well-balanced approach to training is important to mitigate injury risk. Athletes are at a greater danger of hamstring strain injury due to the significant forces endured during high intensity efforts such as accelerations, decelerations and sprinting. The greater the forces produced during these activities, the greater the energy demands are on the hamstrings. The fatigue and muscle-damage induced by these high intensity efforts add to the danger of a hamstring strain. Because the muscle is fatigued, it loses the capacity to contract in a coordinated and timely response to ground reaction forces and is in a weakened state. A sharp increase in weekly training load compared to the preceding four weeks dramatically increases the risk of hamstring strain injury. Additionally, athletes who experience a spike in high intensity running loads greater than their average output of the previous 2 years are also at a heightened risk.
As you can see there a number of contributing factors that impact on why the injury occurred. An important thing to remember is that when you are pushing your body to the absolute limits and pushing the boundaries there is going to be an increased risk to injury.
We just want to make sure we do all we can to build strong robust athletes that are resilient to injury.
Stay tuned, with our following hamstring series posts going into detail on how to bullet proof your hamstrings and then providing an insight to hamstring injury rehabilitation.
Junior Athletic Development encompasses a holistic view to ensure the athlete is physically preparing properly for their chosen sport or sports. With the aim to reduce the injury risk for the athlete, while also increasing their sporting performance. Muscular strength is one of the key areas to target when physically preparing an athlete.
What is strength?
Muscular strength is the ability of the body to produce force, as well as absorbing force. In a sporting context a footballer with poor lower body strength will not be able to jump as high to take a mark compared to a strong athlete, as they can’t produce as much force into the ground to produce the power for their jump. Similarly, a netballer with poor strength will not be able to land and absorb the force very well from a jump or aggressive change of direction, leading to an increased risk of injury.
So we have identified that muscular strength plays a crucial role for an athlete – so why don’t junior athletes perform any strength training?
Strength training Myths for Junior Athletes:
Understandably, parents want to ensure the safety of their child whilst participating or training for their sport. The suitability of strength training for children and young athletes has long been debated, with the old school belief that strength training is inappropriate for young athletes……..
There have been a number of myths that we have commonly heard in regards to junior athletic development. These are issues we would not only like to dismiss, but also demonstrate the positive benefits behind strength training, regardless of age or sport played. Four of the most common myths: – Strength training stunts growth. – Strength training makes kids slower. – Children will injure themselves lifting weights. – Strength training will lead to issues later in life.
As a result of these common beliefs there has been a plethora of research conducted to assess any physical risks that weights training may pose to young athletes. Overall, there is substantial amount of results supporting the implementation of strength work as part of a structured training program for Junior athletes.
Strength training stunts growth –
There are numerous research articles now published that have shown that strength training does NOT have a negative effect on growth plates.
Yes, strength training does put force/load through the athlete’s joints. But….. The simple movement of sprinting e.g. a soccer player chasing down a loose ball can experience peak forces of 2-3 times body weight on each leg. Or when a basketballer lands from performing a lay up they can be putting forces up to 4-6 times their body weight through their joints! so for a 60kg athlete that is up to 360kg! If a ‘weak athlete’ is continually exposed to these forces it can lead to overuse and stress related injuries.
By performing strength training it can help to build resilient athletes that can cope with these forces. Reducing their injury risk, keeping them in their chosen sport.
Strength training will make junior athletes slow –
This myth is based on the theory that strength training will make you big and slow…….
It actually couldn’t be further from the truth. A stronger athlete is able to put more force into the ground, which in turns results in them moving quicker. Strength training also helps to enhance the neural pathway from the brain to the working muscles, making them more effective and efficient – leading to enhanced movement patterns. So the athlete can actually technically move better, resulting in supreme performance.
Children will injure themselves lifting weights –
A concern that parents have is that their child will injury themselves while performing strength training. A comprehensive study was carried out in 2001 that documented the training progress of young males (9-10 years old) over 21months. The participants carried out bi-weekly gym sessions under the supervision of qualified strength coaches. Results showed improvements of roughly 1% per week in strength output, but also documented an extremely low rate of injury of 0.055 injuries per 100 training hours. The key suggestions from these authors were to ensure supervision of young athletes whilst performing weights training and logically progressing through a periodised training program (quality over quantity).
Also, a large majority of strength training performed with junior athletes is often performed just using bodyweight. getting the athlete to move really well, before adding any additional load.
Strength training will lead to issues later in life –
This one flows on from the myth that strength training will stunt growth plates – the only issue that strength training will lead to later in life is that you will be strong, able to compete for longer and also have stronger healthier bones. “Resistance training in addition to free play and other structured physical activity training can serve as a protective means against injury and a positive catalyst for the development of physical literacy to offset the impact of diminishing physical activity and early sport specialisation in today’s youth”.
So what should young athletes be doing?
The National Physical Activity Guidelines (guidelines established by the government to outline minimum activity requirements to assist the prevention of chronic health conditions) state that children (5-17 years) should engage in activities that strengthen muscle and bone at least three times per week. This is regardless of sport played!
The Australian Strength and Conditioning Association (ASCA) The governing body of strength and conditioning in Australia – state that children can safely begin resistance training from 6 years of age. The ASCA advocate the prescription of resistance training by following the Long-Term Athletic Development model. This plan outlines a coherent plan for the progressive development of young athletes via a four-stage model based on the athletes age and their ability to perform certain movements.
The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS)further support the notion of properly designed and supervised weights training as it has been shown to increase strength, reduce the risk of injury (being stronger makes you more resilient to injury), and enhance motor skills/sports performance. Key recommendations for the AIS include:
– Ensuring weights training focuses on skills and technique.
– Training should focus on strengthening big muscle groups (compound movement over isolation exercises).
– Slowly introduce weights training and ensure sessions are on non-consecutive days to build a tolerance to training loads.
What is the best way to include strength training?
First and foremost the best option is to get in touch with an accredited Strength and Conditioning Coach – they have the expert knowledge in exercise prescription to make sure the athlete is performing the right exercises, and executing them properly.
Initially a lot of the strength training is done with bodyweight, teaching the athlete to move well – produce and absorb force effectively and efficiently. Gradually once the athlete starts to progress and control their body additional load can be applied.
Strength training is done in conjunction with the athlete’s normal training program and it is used to support their sport participation.
The conclusive evidence behind the benefits of strength training should encourage all athletes, coaches and parents of athletes to include some form of structured strength training as part of a balanced training program.
The big take home message: A stronger athlete is: more resilient to injuries, can jump higher, run faster and change direction quicker.
For more information about what you can be doing with your junior athletes contact us via email, phone or our social media pages.
Sadres, E., Eliakim, A., Constantini, N., Lidor, R. and Falk, B. (2001): The effect of long-term resistance training on anthropometric measures, muscle strength, and self concept in pre-pubertal boys. Pediatric Exercise Science. 13: 357-372.
The video above provides a quick snapshot into a training session (with Strength and Conditioning Coach Chris Radford) with the Under 15 girls Netball Victoria Western region academy program.
The session included:
Single leg balance – yes open/closed
Single leg balance with passing – easy / hard
Single leg jump and land
180 degree spin and stick landing
Jump, take contact then stick the landing
Moving into some hard drive leads then stick landing
Finishing with strength work:
Single leg Arabesque
Dead bug leg lowers
Push up hold – stabilising through movement
Placing an emphasis on learning safe landings and lower body strength is a really important component to any netball program! Reducing the risk of injury, but also increasing the athletes performance!